multiplesPlease welcome Lisa Bicknell Madden for the final part of her series on dealing with postpartum depression as a mom of multiples

When my triplets were 18 months old I found out I was pregnant again. I was actually three months pregnant and didn’t know. I had been put on the “mini-pill” after I delivered due to hormonal headaches, so I got a period every month. And yet, I was pregnant! I called my best friend, not my husband. She cried with me. I didn’t know how I would survive this. My fourth child was born in October. The rage continued. I never got help. I never said anything to anyone. I was so ashamed. I loved my kids so much and it was so confusing to me to have these colliding feelings. I wish I had had Postpartum Progress to turn too at that time. I wish I had known I was not a monster, and that I was not alone.

I got better.  I truly got better with distance and with time. Once the triplets went to kindergarten each day and Caroline was in preschool I was able to breathe and the voices of self-hatred in my head got quieter. I was able to quiet them by surrounding myself with wonderful women who today are still my best friends. They never judged me even though they saw me at my worst.  I hid so much, so many feelings, so many emotions, so much of my life truly – that is how I got through it. I just faked it. I faked feeling okay, until eventually one day I did feel okay for a bit, and then a bit more.  The journey to recovery and being the new “Lisa” — because I am forever different now – took five years.  I was never treated. Never was medicated, never saw a professional, never told anyone.

In 2007 I was working on the postpartum floor in a hospital in Monmouth County, NJ, when an angel walked in named Pat Vena. Pat was a social worker and she was there to educate all the nurses on the floor about a “new” illness called Postpartum Depression. The talk included a free lunch. I sat surrounded by my friends and co-workers and listened and heard stories of moms. Moms telling MY story. I started to cry. In front of everyone. Big, Oprah ugly tears. Pat came over and walked me outside. She sat me down and we talked. I spilled. I talked, I cried, I confessed. She just listened and nodded.  That was the year I started giving every one one of my moms the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale before discharge from the hospital. I became the PPD nurse of our hospital. I started working under Pat. Going to every conference available. Reading everything I could find. I wasn’t comfortable enough yet to share my story in public, but I did share it with the scared moms I spoke to.  Very quickly my cell phone number was being passed around like a secret hotline. OBs knew it,  moms knew it, nurses and lactation consultants knew it.  I got phone calls and messages all the time. The voices so sad and similar.

Pat and I still work together. Today I run a grant-funded program thru her consortium. Today I speak proudly of the past, knowing I’m helping to break the stigma. Today my kids know – to a degree – when mom’s phone rings and I hold up my hand it is a sad mommy she has to take this phone call. I started a support group at the hospital where I work for moms suffering with PPD, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis and more. This group has at least five and often ten moms a week, and almost always a new face weekly.

I still see women in line at Target with that face, the face I know I had, and I go right up to them and I say, “It’s harder than you thought. No one told you it could be hard and lonely sometimes, did they?” They usually cry and so do I. And then I tell them about this really great group of moms just like them …

I hope Lisa’s three-part story this week is helpful to all the moms of multiples out there. Being a mother of multiples, being someone who has gone through infertility treatments, and being someone whose baby is in the NICU are ALL risk factors for PPD, as is having little social support and not being surrounded by people who know exactly what you’re going through. Please know you are not alone and that you can get better with professional help. Lisa never did get the help she needed and so it took her many years to recover. She wants you to know you don’t have to struggle for so long, alone. Ask for help. We’re here.

Photo credit: © Kathleen Perdue –